And it had been—and with it there had oozed out of my mind every drop of my former suspicion. There was another side that he was hiding from us, but it was the side of tenderness for his children— for those he loved and from whom he was parted. I had boasted to myself of my intuition and had looked, as I supposed, deep into his heart, and all I found were three little faces. With this came a certain feeling of shame that I had been stupid enough to allow my imagination to run away with my judgment. Hereafter I would have more sense.
All that winter Bing was the life of the house. The days on which his seat was empty—off getting statistics for the encyclopaedia, I explained to my fellow-boarders, I being looked upon now as having special information owing to my supposed intimacy, although I had never entered his room since that night—on these days, I say, the table relapsed into its old-time dullness.
One night I found his card on my pin-cushion. I always locked my door myself when I left my room— had done so that night, I thought, but I must have forgotten it. Under his name was written: “Say good-by to the others.”
I concluded, of course, that it was but for a few days and that he would return as usual, and hold out his two big generous hands to each one down the table, leaving a warmth behind him which they had not known since he last pressed their palms—and so on down until he reached Miss Buffum and the school-teacher, who would both rise in their seats to welcome him.
With the passing of the first week the good lady became uneasy; the board, as usual, had been paid in advance, but it was the man she missed. No one else could add the drop of oil to the machinery of the house, nor would it run smoothly without him.
At the end of the second week she rapped at my door and with trembling steps led me to Bing’s room. She had opened it with her own pass-key—a liberty she never allowed any one to take except herself, and never then unless some emergency arose. It was empty of everything that belonged to him—had been for days. The room had been set in order and the bed had been made up by the maid the day he left and had not been slept in since. Trunks, books, manuscripts, photographs—all were gone—not a vestige of anything belonging to him was visible.
I stooped down and examined the grate. On the top of the dead coals lay a little heap of ashes—all that was left of a package of letters.
Five years passed. Times had changed with me. I had long since left my humble quarters at Miss Buffum’s and now had two rooms in an uptown apartment -house. My field of work, too, had become enlarged. I had ceased to write for the Sunday papers and was employed on special articles for the magazines. This had widened my acquaintance with men and with life. Heretofore I had known the dark alleys